Marion Post Wolcott


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Photographer. Remembered almost entirely for direct, unsentimental, and perceptive Depression-era documentary work from the South and New England, she hoped to relieve the distress of the rural poor by drawing attention to their predicament. However, on occasion her camera captured the persistence of middle-class standards or, less often, the continuity of privilege. In Florida she investigated downtrodden African-American migrant workers but also photographed “Two Young Couples in a Juke Joint, near Moorehaven, Florida” (1939), depicting nicely dressed white sweethearts in a booth at a bare-bones roadhouse. In New England, where she captured direct democracy in action at town meetings, she also documented wealthy skiers descending on the region. Born in Bloomfield, New Jersey, Marion Post grew up in nearby Montclair. As a young woman she studied modern dance in New York with Ruth St. Denis and Doris Humphrey before becoming a teacher. While traveling and studying from 1932 to 1934 in Europe, she began taking photographs. After her return, she taught for another year before turning full time to freelance photography. In 1938 she accepted a position with the Farm Security Administration. While maintaining a residence in Washington, D.C., she traveled extensively until 1941, when marriage to Agriculture Department official Leon Oliver Wolcott effectively ended her career. They lived in rural Virginia, where she raised a family and again returned to teaching. Later, when her husband was assigned to foreign postings for the State Department, she traveled with him. During these years, she did not work professionally but continued to photograph her family, the landscape, and her journeys. After 1975, when she returned to photographing more regularly, she usually employed color film. In the late 1970s she settled in California, where she died at her home in Santa Barbara. FSA Photographs/Marion Post Wolcott (1983) surveys her work for the federal agency.

Subjects: Art.

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